Automa-Tons of Fun


During a discussion of Ozma of Oz at the most recent OzCon International, Lee Speth proposed that, while Tik-Tok was not the first mechanical man in modern literature, he was perhaps the first artificial intelligence. L. Frank Baum himself had previously written about another mechanical man, the Cast-Iron Man built by King Scowleyow in The Magical Monarch of Mo, but there’s no real indication that he’s intelligent; all he’s designed to do is stomp.

Tik-Tok’s creators, Smith and Tinker, also built the Giant with the Hammer who appears in Ozma. When Ozma asks he can think and speak as well, Tik-Tok assures her that all he does is pound.

In Jack and Larry Breton’s Ork, we learn that he’s also capable of motion, although only through direct manual control. The auto-dragons of Thi, which are directed by music, don’t appear to be able to think for themselves. In the same book, Lost Princess, we do see another character whose status as a living being is questioned: the Little Pink Bear. He can talk when a crank on one side of his body is turned, and one on the other side lets him walk. When the Frogman asks if he’s alive, the Lavender Bear replies, “Something animates him—when you turn his crank….I do not know if it is life, or what it is.”

I believe I once saw Mr. Split from Dot and Tot of Merryland suggested as an automaton, but he’s actually the only one in his valley who DOESN’T need to be wound up; his job is to wind up the others.

It seems to be a general rule that mechanical beings in Oz and the surrounding nations need to be wound up or otherwise powered on, while those brought to life by magic can usually just keep going without even needing to eat or sleep. I don’t know of any instances of one automaton providing power for another (like, say, Tik-Tok turning the crank for the Pink Bear); I guess it would be possible, but would likely take a lot out of the provider, thanks to entropy. But then, the fact that Ozites are functionally immortal seems to violate the same law; I can only suppose it’s balanced out elsewhere in the universe.

I’ve written before about how Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Clocker and Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Clockwise might qualify as cyborgs, and neither one of them appears to have to be wound, although maybe they’re just more efficient than Tik-Tok. We do know from Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s Wicked Witch that Smith and Tinker built a clock that can run for a century. It’s sentient and can speak, but doesn’t move on its own.

Ozwoz has his army of 2000 mechanical wooden soldiers who can be operated by remote control. Jinnicky receives one in a trade and plans on copying it, but we don’t know if he ever succeeded.

John R. Neill’s Runaway introduces Battery Batt, a bad-tempered man made of coils of wire who captains a mechanical shooting star, and can be turned on or off with buttons.

When Fred Meyer and Robert Pattrick came out with their own revised version of Runaway, they changed a lot of the characters and their names, and Batt became the much friendlier Captain Current, specifically said to have been built by Smith and Tinker. I guess that’s possible for Batt as well, although I prefer to think of him and his star as products of an ancient civilization. In Phil Lewin’s Master Crafters, Ku-Klip builds a pewter servant for Nimmie Amee based on the plans for Tik-Tok, but is unable to make an intelligent brain for him. This book posits that Smith and Tinker are really aliases for a mechanic named Jomo, but this is unlikely considering that they appear as individuals elsewhere. It came to my mind at one point that “Jomo” is an anagram of Mooj, and he’s another character who might have mechanical parts, at least according to the illustrations.

Then there are the robots living in the Deadly Desert in R.K. Lionel’s Braided Man, whom the Tin Woodman invites to live in the Winkie Country. There’s also a failed model, the 034D HC84, which sucks the energy from both mechanical and living beings. And Eric Shanower’s Aa the Salt Sorcerer has a mechanical metal helper named Clank, who’s very strong and works in Aa’s salt mine.

I’ve been thinking of writing something about what happened with the Wizard of Oz and Clocker, although I’d also want to include Kadj the Conjurer, as the Clock Man was imprisoned in his cave. I remember seeing a Henry Blossom manuscript that used Kadj, but it appears to have vanished. Also, like R5-D4, I think I might have a bad motivator.

This entry was posted in Characters, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Eric Shanower, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Oz, Oz Authors, Phil Lewin, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Automa-Tons of Fun

  1. Pingback: The Best of Inventions | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: Every Modern Convenience and Comfort | VoVatia

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